The secret to the best, irresistible manicotti is to make them from scratch with my easy homemade crespelles, which are basically Italian crepes. These spinach and cheese manicotti are filled with three cheeses – ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan, then topped with homemade sauce. So damn delicious!
It’s been quite a while since I made manicotti, and decided to re-shoot this recipe because it’s so good, a dish you would be proud to serve and the perfect Holiday dish. Wow, I think I forgot just how good it was! It’s great for Christmas or Christmas Eve if you’re planning a dinner party, you can double the recipe and make two trays. Serve it with a crisp salad and some bread on the side if you wish.
We had this for dinner last night and Tommy who’s pretty critical and picky, gave me the biggest compliment, he said it tastes like Pastosa Ravioli. If you live in New York and have tried Pastosa’s, you’ll know why that’s a compliment! I usually make my own homemade sauce, but last night I cheated and used Delallo’s Pomodoro Fresco because I’m obsessed (not a sponsored post, it’s just the best jarred sauce ever)! Like Pastosa, I only use Polly-O ricotta for the filling (yes, it makes a difference) as well as their mozzarella, which I prefer to grate myself by hand.
What’s the difference between manicotti and cannelloni ?
They are both very similar, the only difference is manicotti, is a filled crepe or “crespelle” rather than pasta. Cannelloni, can be stuffed with the same filling, but uses pasta instead. The confusion is the pasta you purchase in the store to make cannelloni, is called manicotti.
Although they are both delicious, this recipe is made with the crespelles which I personally love. The delicate crepes give the manicotti a lightness you just don’t get with pasta. It does take a little extra time, so I save this dish for special occasions and holidays. You can double the recipe and freeze one of the trays.
How do you make manicotti shells (crespelles)?
You start by making super thin crepes in a skillet. Don’t worry, they are much easier to make than they sound. My homemade crespelle recipe uses white whole wheat flour, eggs, milk and salt which are mixed in the blender. A crepe pan can be used, but it’s not necessary, I use a 8-inch non-stick skillet with a 6-inch surface and which works out perfect. I start by spraying the pan lightly with olive oil spray, then add two tablespoons of batter for each, swirl it around and once it sets, gently flip. Stack them on a plate, and once the crespelles are all made, lay them out on a work surface, fill and roll. After you make a few, you’ll be a pro!
How To Make Ahead:
- This is a great dish to make for the holidays or special occasions because you can prep everything ahead. Make the homemade crespelles one day ahead and stack them on a plate. Cover them tight with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to fill.
- You can also make the spinach-ricotta filling one day ahead. The morning of, stuff the crespelles, roll them and refrigerate. Once you are ready to bake, pour the sauce in the baking dish, top with the manicotti, top with more sauce and cheese and bake until hot.
- Leftovers can be frozen. To freeze, bake them in the oven then freeze. To reheat, transfer them from the freezer directly into the oven, cover and bake 350F until heated through.
Homemade Spinach Manicotti
- 16 homemade crespelles
- 15 oz part skim ricotta cheese (I use Polly-O)
- 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (reserve 1/2 cup) Polly-O
- 1 large egg
- 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed really well
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Regianno
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- black pepper, to taste
- 2 1/2 cups jarred marinara or homemade marinara sauce
- Start by making the crespelles.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- In a large bowl, combine ricotta, 1-1/2 cups of the mozzarella, egg, spinach, parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.
- Fill each crespelle with 1/4 cup spinach filling and roll.
- In a large baking dish, (or two smaller dishes) pour 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish. Place rolled manicotti seem side down onto baking dish. Top with 1 1/2 cups more sauce and remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake about about 25 minutes, until hot and bubbling, and the cheese is melted.
Yield: 8 servings, Serving Size: 2 manicotti
- Amount Per Serving:
- Smart Points: 7
- Points +: 7
- Calories: 277
- Total Fat: 12.5g
- Saturated Fat: 6g
- Cholesterol: 77mg
- Sodium: 698mg
- Carbohydrates: 20g
- Fiber: 3g
- Sugar: 5g
- Protein: 22.5g